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Getting Off Oil - With Architecture
Posted on February 6, 2020 @ 5:34PM

It is no secret that our dependence on oil reaches into every aspect of modern life. This must change - actually, will change, whether we like it or not. Not only are we wreaking environmental havoc burning fossil fuels, it is certain the costs will continue to dramatically rise, impacting every corner of our economy. Global demand is steadily increasing as supplies are steadily tapering. It is a problem of epic scale, but there is a viable path forward. It involves transitioning to a renewable energy economy by solving five separate but related challenges - the easiest of which is how we make our buildings.

"There is no energy crisis, only a crisis of ignorance." ~ Buckminster Fuller

There is no question that we have access to more energy than we will ever need through renewable sources. All we need is the vision and will to change deeply embedded patterns formed by our exploitation of formerly cheap fossil fuels. Currently, buildings are the largest single consumer of energy in industrial nations. It is within our means to turn that upside down; we have the technologies to not only take our buildings to 'net zero' with respect to energy, but to design and build them to reliably create more energy than they use. This is possible by means of implementation of the Passive House design standard, combined with the integration of applicable renewable energy harvesting technologies.


The other four components of a total transition to a sustainable economy are installing energy storage technology in buildings, shifting from a fossil fuel energy to a renewable energy regime, using the internet to convert our electrical power grid into an intelligent energy network, and transforming our transportation fleet to electric and fuel cell vehicles powered by renewable energy. In May of 2007, the European Parliament passed a formal commitment of all twenty-seven member states to the advancement of these principles, collectively referred to as the Third Industrial Revolution.

Climate change is the central problem of our time, and the urgency cannot be overstated. No other concern even comes close. Inertia is carrying us where we cannot afford to go; the time is now to meaningfully and actively engage in this conversation and act to retool our built environment. This is a very big ship we have to turn around, ominously gaining speed.

Author: Sam Rodell

Sam has been practicing as an award winning architect for over thirty years, and has also built many of his clients' projects.  He is currently licensed to practice architecture throughout most of the western United States and Canada, and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) which expedites registration in other states and provinces. He was the first Certified Passive House Consultant (CPHC) architect in eastern Washington and northern Idaho.